Redbuds in Bloom and Birds Singing Loudly

Rainy days of spring – we’ve had a few in a row and the grass is getting too tall too fast. Even though it makes my last last mowing session seem like a waste of time, I do like seeing the garden lettuce getting bigger.

Trees are really growing their leaves quickly now. Scanning across the mountain ridges you can see shades of green replacing the drab and lifeless grays and browns. It’s like a wave of color change going up the mountain. The dark evergreens contrast nicely with the light greens of the new deciduous leaves.

Yesterday, we took a drive west into the heart of the Pennsylvania mountains, south of State College. All along Route 22 were beautiful redbud trees in full bloom. The lavender, lilac and light purple flowers were magnificent. In a few places these small trees lined both sides of the highway to provide a burst of colorful energy on that cool Spring day. Perhaps the redbud blossoms will last a week, but when the leaves start expanding the blooms will die back.

Dogwood trees are blooming near the edges of the forests. Even though they started blooming about a week ago, the white and ornamental pink flowers still look bright.

All the blueberry bushes are blooming now and the gaywings are smiling pinkly on the forest floor.

With all this Spring activity of growth we can’t forget our feathered friends as they have been quite active, too. A pair of bluebirds are nesting in the bluebird box – they’ve been busy for a couple weeks inspecting and cleaning house, and making a new nest.

This morning I heard an unusual bird song coming from the tree tops, so I ran to get the binoculars and then ran upstairs to get a better view. At the top of a tall oak tree was a male Scarlet Tanager singing loudly. I got to see him for only a few minutes before he flitted out of sight. Peterson tells us these birds are common, but you rarely see them unless you look up to the canopy. It’s pretty amazing how the bright, scarlet red color disappears in the shade of the leaves.

This afternoon I was treated to another bird song. This time the sounds came from a different direction, but also from the top of an oak tree. The binoculars verified that a Baltimore Oriole, or Northern Oriole, was looking for his mate. The bird’s head was distinctly all black and his chest and back shined a bright orange.

The oak leaves are probably 50% developed on average. The white oaks are a little behind the red oaks and chestnut oaks in their development.

The gypsy moths should be hatching very soon, so I hope the tanager and oriole will stick around for many free meals. I’ve heard that these two birds will eat the gypsy moth caterpillars, but can anyone verify that? I’ve also heard that no native bird here in the U.S. will eat the nasty little defoliators, so I’m crossing my fingers that the former is true.

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